26th Sep2017

‘WRC 7′ Review (PS4)

by Matthew Smail

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Without putting too fine a point on it, WRC 7 is a hard game to recommend. I’m a huge fan of rally racing and rally games, yet the gameplay in Kyloton’s third installment of the WRC series (the others being WRC 5 and 6) feels as if it has barely advanced in three years. Considering the recent interest in rally games thanks to DiRT Rally and DiRT 4, this could have been an ideal opportunity to drive sales towards a polished, official product.

On the surface, WRC 7 offers a reasonable amount of value. I recently criticised DiRT 4 because of a lack of track variety, and that is certainly not a problem for WRC 7. There are thirteen countries represented in the game, and each of them is split into stages as you would expect. From night rally’s on the slushy, bumpy tarmac of Finland, to racing through twisting Corsican mountains in the baking sun, WRC 7 has the locations that fans will want to see.

Unfortunately, few of these locations look as good as they should, and fall way, way short of the expectations set by other games. Trees can look two dimensional at times, shrubs lack any kind of substance, and as a result of a raft of similar problems, what looks decent in a still image actually suffers a bit when in motion. Playing on a PS4 Pro, I can at least confirm that WRC 7 runs at a decent clip, but considering how similar to the previous versions it appears to be, that’s no real surprise.

Whilst the locations are somewhat disappointing, the cars are at least a bit better. There is plenty of attention to detail, and considering that near photorealism is expected from modern racing games, WRC 7 is on the money. As fans of the sport will know, this years cars are more powerful and feature aggressive aerodynamics packages that include lots of angular fins, grills and similar detailing. These difficult details are captured accurately and convincingly in WRC 7 and I think the result is a pleasing level of detail for fans of real life teams and cars.

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The sound in WRC 7 features similarly mixed levels of quality. Engines, exhaust notes and environmental effects like splashing water, slushing snow and tinkling gravel sound very authentic, but the co-driver is awful. Despite the nice addition of pace notes for either novice or expert drivers, the co-driver calls are frequently inaccurate or late and no matter what is said, they appear to have been phoned into the car from another dimension. The simpler instructions seemed better to me due to the fact that they are delivered more quickly, allowing more time to react. Cars do sound reasonably authentic, with variance between individual cars and a marked difference when comparing WRC and WRC 2 cars.

Handling is, in a word; reasonable. Much to my surprise, WRC 7 continues to deliver a fairly lightweight, arcade focussed experience. There are relatively few assist options to vary, with anti-lock brakes and a choice of manual or auto gearbox being the main two. DiRT remains a more hardcore (and certainly more customizable) experience, although that isn’t saying much, and neither series can reach the level of challenge that Richard Burns Rally used to present.

Cars are actually quite nice to drive, which for me is an improvement since the last game in the series that I played (which was WRC 5). There is a decent sense of connection between the vehicle and the road surface, meaning that it is possible to detect changes as they happen, for example when driving from tarmac onto gravel or vice versa. In general, easily controllable slides are encouraged and can be held, enabling average players to string a series of bends together with an ease that looks great in replays and in front of friends.

On that note, WRC 7 has a good selection of multiplayer modes to choose from. Local split screen is supported, as is a local pass the pad mode that supports up to eight players and enables a proper rally experience. Online play is supported and works fine when you can get a game, but unfortunately there were relatively few players for me to compete with. When games are located, there is no real matching of skill level, which is fine for now but I would hope it is introduced later as the player base grows. If, indeed, it ever does.

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The meat of WRC 7 for solo players is really in the campaign mode, although individual stages and other options are available to play if you want something lighter. In the career mode, players have access to all the official teams and cars, and can work their way through WRC Junior, WRC 2 and the full WRC season itself. Whilst there is some gating of access to the “best” content, it is relatively easy to progress and even the front wheel drive cars of the WRC 2 mode feel decent enough to drive.

So why is WRC 7 hard to recommend? Well there are a few reasons really. Firstly, I can’t say that I’ve noticed anything materially different between this years iteration and the one I played a couple of years ago. Secondly, whilst it is competent, it is drastically deficient when compared to either DiRT 4 or DiRT Rally, despite containing quite a lot more content in terms of the number of rally stages available. This would be acceptable if it were a pure simulation that targets a different audience, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. Only hardcore rally fans should apply here, or those who really want to explore more stages or play split screen perhaps.

*** 3/5

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